I can hardly open any of my social media accounts without seeing my timeline flooded with strongly worded posts about one of the day’s hot button issues from presidents to premiers to wars, vaccines, COVID-19, the economy or even politics and controversy in the church.
Which got me thinking, “Should ‘good’ digital disciples just play nice and speak about neutral topics or is it part of the great commission that we speak boldly and publicly about politics, issues of the day and other topics that may be seen as controversial on our online platforms?
And while I’m mostly asking this question from the perspective of an individual, the question also remains with organisations and churches as well. Should we speak publicly on our social media accounts, websites and podcasts on issues that might stir up trouble if we think the trouble is worth fighting for?
These are the questions I’ll be discussing in this article, and I’ll also pose some questions you can think about as you consider if discussing politics online is the right decision for you.
What’s in your heart?
To me, the first guiding principle in answering this question is asking yourself, “What’s in my heart?”
Luke 6:45 says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
In this case, I love the way the King James version of this verse reads because of the imagery it creates. It says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
All this to say, it doesn’t matter if your fingers know what to type and your brain puts together a non-offensive statement, whatever is stored up in your heart will eventually come out.
Or, said another way, if you could imagine that your heart were a cup, your mouth would start speaking when the cup overflowed. So, whatever is poured into the cup will eventually come out of the cup.
So, if you’re wondering if you should talk about things that might ruffle a few feathers online, first start by looking at your heart.
1. What’s the spirit in which you’re sharing online?
Everything comes down to your “why”. Ask yourself, “Why am I sharing this?”.
Am I trying to prove people wrong? Am I following a strong conviction? Am I trying to shove the truth down the conspiracy theorists’ throats? Am I trying to make sure people are informed? Am I trying to stick it to the man? Or, am I standing up to injustice?
Understanding your why will reveal a lot about where your heart is.
Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
While your treasure can be money and the good life you’ve built for yourself, it can also be your affiliations. It can be anything from which you get your value and self-worth and your sense of being right.
Making sure you’re treasuring things that are not only relevant here on earth but also in the kingdom of God can be a guiding principle when deciding what to post online when the topic is controversial and when it’s more neutral.
2. Are you following your convictions?
When you’re posting online, ask yourself if you’re truly following your convictions.
Your decision to post online shouldn’t be decided by how much trouble it will cause but by how deep your conviction is about it.
When your heart is full from spending time with God in prayer and reading the Bible, sensing the convictions of the Holy Spirit will become more clear. Your mouth will speak and your fingers will type out of the overflow of your heart.
Many times, your convictions, it will look strange to other people. They’ll even look like trouble. Historic American civil rights leader, John Lewis, is well known for saying,
Though it might be a little murky sometimes, conviction isn’t the same thing as a strong opinion or just shutting up that person who won’t stop posting crazy “conspiracy theories”. A conviction is a deep tug at your heart that you have to say something – that you will contribute positively to the conversation and perhaps shift people’s hearts or thinking in some way. Though don’t be too surprised if it doesn’t change anyone’s opinion at all.
When Daniel “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank” he was following a strong conviction. (Daniel 1:8)
Do you sense your convictions leading you towards a conversation or sharing something specific? Then, follow your conviction.
3. How do you treat people who disagree with you?
One of my concerns for speaking out online on issues we may be passionate about is what it brings out in each of us. Often people who spout opinions online have no skin in the game — they are not directly impacted by the issue they’re posting. Often, they don’t truly understand the context or the history of the issue they’re broaching so when you go to respond to them, they are able to give emotionally detached answers. At the same time, the people who respond may be deeply impacted by that same issue.
For this reason, one word of caution I have is to prepare yourself for the aftermath of the online interaction of what you’ll post. How will you respond when you learn that people you are close to have deeply different opinions from you? Will you mentally tag them and remember it every time their name comes up.
Oh, there goes Jane the anti-vaxxer (just a made up name by the way) or Ian the Black Lives Matter supporter (again made up) or Nora the conservative (made up too).
How will you treat them once you’ve mentally labeled them? How will you treat them online and in person once you’ve had a disagreement with them? Will you be able to disagree with people without being disagreeable and having a grudge that stretches out to the third and fourth generation?
After the conversation, will people still find you to be a safe person to talk to?
4. Will you continue to be a safe place for people
What does it mean to be a safe place for people to come to in the online space? It means people, from all walks of life, going through different issues, will feel comfortable talking to you.
The challenge is that perception is reality. Will people continue to see you as a safe place? Even if in your heart you know you are a safe person, will people feel comfortable coming to you and talking to you?
Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run in and are safe.” As children of God, it could be said that we should be safe places for people as well. We can ask ourselves, are we creating safe places online for people?
I used to have a blog where I shared encouraging spiritual articles and then, I’d share those articles on my social media account. From sharing them online, I found that so many people felt comfortable to come and have spiritual conversations with me – they would ask for prayer for themselves, parents who were sick, their marriages and for themselves.
How are we creating safe places for people to come to us online?
5. Do you think yours is the only opinion that matters?
One of the most important questions to ask yourself is have you considered the situation from the other person’s point of view?This isn’t to change your opinion, but to make you more aware of where other people are coming from. It allows you to humanize the people you’re talking to or talking about.
If you decide to post potentially controversial topics on your social media platforms, consider all the other opinions that are involved and try to see things from different points of view.
6. How committed are you to being “right” and proving your point rather than being loving?
One thing to ask yourself is how committed am I to being right? If your goal is to prove your point no matter what, you’ll do anything for that purpose. Obviously the point you’re making is important, but don’t do it at the expense of missing out on seeing others as human.
Consider how you can follow your conviction while also being loving, and also remember, you may just be putting your opinion out into the world and it may not directly change anyone else’s opinion, especially if you fail to do it in a loving way.
7. Have you spent any time listening?
Social media sharing is often a function of people’s personalities. Some people like to share what they’ve had for dinner and others only post every blue moon. But what we all can do is listen and acknowledge to people that they’re heard, even if we think they’re wrong.
So, to answer the question we started with, “Do ‘good’ digital disciples discuss politics or other potentially controversial topics online?” The answer is it depends. Follow your convictions and follow your heart. If you’ve filled your heart with the Holy Spirit, when you follow your heart, you will be following His leading.
What do you think about sharing potentially controversial things online? Do you do it or is it a no-go zone for you? I’d love to hear from you.